After Grammy-nominated rapper DMX died from a drug overdose-induced heart attack on April 9, 2021, his 8-year-old daughter Sonovah Hillman Jr. set out to understand her father’s plight.
In the last year, the now 10-year-old has made it her mission to help people struggling with substance abuse and, especially, to help other children who are growing up with addicted parents. Now she’s raising money through GoFundMe to produce a four-part docuseries that she hopes will get “to Netflix and Hulu and all the big things.”
The docuseries is aimed at raising awareness about the way that the fentanyl and opioid crisis has impacted families.
“I lost my aunt and uncle to a drug overdose and my dad to addiction. Fentanyl is affecting every gender, race, class and age group,” she said in a YouTube video promoting her docuseries that is featured on the GoFundMe page. “I started watching old interviews of my dad talking about his drug addiction. I wanted to talk to other kids whose parents have died from an overdose, or are still currently using.”
Sonovah felt as if children didn’t have a voice and that gave her the idea for the docuseries.
“Kids whose parents are on drugs, or have been on drugs, or have died from drugs — nobody ever asked how they felt,” Sonovah told The Times by telephone from her home in Oakland.
She continued, saying the docuseries could help kids because “it will let them express their feelings.”
Sonovah compassionately articulates both the reality and the nuance of addiction.
“It’s a disease,” she said. “It’s hurtful and it’s hard … we have to deal with it. We have to deal with parents coming home late, not being around all the time. It makes us feel neglected, lonely.”
After the rapper’s death, Sonovah asked her mom if she could visit a rehabilitation facility because she wanted to better understand what her father grappled with. After reaching out, an Oakland facility agreed to let her stop by.
“I heard my dad talk about it in an interview. I just wanted to see what the experience was,” she said. “A lot of adults are uncomfortable about the conversation that I want to have with them.”
At the rehab center, “this one guy just said he wanted to be left alone.”
After visiting, she said, “I learned that a lot of people deal with a lot of trauma.”
That’s one of the main things she wants to discuss in her docuseries.
It would seem the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree creatively. As Sonovah anticipates talking with other kids about trauma in her docuseries, DMX spent his decades-long career exploring themes of trauma through his music.
In November 2020, DMX got candid about his struggle with addiction during an appearance on the podcast “People’s Party With Talib Kweli,” saying, “There was things I went through in my childhood where I just blocked it out. But there’s only so much you can block out before you run out of space. You never know when those things you stored away are going to come out and fall all over the place.
“I learned that I had to deal with the things that hurt me, that I didn’t deal with when they hurt, when they happened,” he said. “I didn’t really have anybody to talk to… in the hood, nobody wants to hear that… Talking about your problems is viewed as a sign of weakness when actually it’s one of the bravest things you can do. One of the bravest things you can do is put it on the table, chop it up, and just let it out.”
His daughter is trying to bravely break that cycle, and initiate a conversation that may be uncomfortable for adults and children alike, having created the GoFundMe page on Jan. 23.
As of Friday, she raised $10,516, $5,000 of which seems to have come from “Saturday Night Live” alum Leslie Jones.
Jones shared Sonovah’s promo video to her Instagram stories on Thursday. A donation attributed to Jones, accompanied by the comment “Go!!!” posted around the same time.
Sonovah is following in her father’s musical footsteps too, writing a song called “Walk on By” for the docuseries.
She says the song is about “helping people feel better and helping people move on.”
Sonovah hopes to reach her goal of raising $250,000 in 120 days.
“My goal is to educate, spread awareness and save lives,” she said at the end of the promotional video. “This is a topic that I’m very passionate about. I know that I’m just a kid, but I believe that I can make a difference.”
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